What Does a School Superintendent Do?+Share
Some of our biggest school districts - Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma - are undergoing major changes in leadership.
Seattle Public Schools, the largest district in the state, is down to three finalists for the superintendent position (UPDATE - profile of newly hired Jose Banda). Spokane Public Schools, the second largest district, just hired a new superintendent.
Tacoma Public Schools' current superintendent plans to leave on the first of July, and the district just hired a new deputy superintendent.
What does a school district superintendent do?
Washington state has 295 local school districts, and each school district is managed by a superintendent that is hired by and reports to the local elected school board.
The superintendent is the top executive ("CEO") in the school district. The superintendent implements the school board’s vision for education by making day-to-day decisions about educational programs, spending, staff and facilities. The superintendent hires, supervises and manages the the central staff and the principals.
Superintendents must work with school leaders - principals - to serve the needs of students and meet the district goals.
The superintendent must also respond to the demands of all the other constituencies and interest groups in the district: teachers, students, parents, staff, advocates and the community at large. He or she must consider how to use the financial and human resources of the district in order to achieve the best results. While being mindful of competing demands, a great superintendent will be guided by what is best for all students.
What makes a great superintendent?
Great Schools, a nonprofit organization, put together this list of what makes an effective superintendent:
- A great superintendent has a clear vision for the district. He or she works with the school board to set the vision, goals and objectives for the district, and then sees to it that the goals are achieved.
- A great superintendent is an instructional leader. He or she knows that the most important job of the school district is to make sure students are learning and achieving at high levels. He or she is knowledgeable of the best practices for maximizing student achievement and is supportive of teachers in the district.
- A great superintendent is an effective communicator. He or she must make a concerted effort to communicate the needs and accomplishments of the district in a variety of formats: through written reports, communication with the media, public meetings and attendance at school events.
- A great superintendent is a good manager. He or she directs the administrators to accomplish the goals of the district, monitors their progress and evaluates their performance.
- A great superintendent is a good listener. He or she must listen and take into account differing viewpoints of various constituencies, and then make the best decision.
- A great superintendent is not afraid to take risks or make a commitment. An average superintendent might set goals that are vague or easily achieved, but a great superintendent would set bold goals that take effort and committment, such as "The majority of third graders will be able to read by the end of the school year," and then put the programs and resources in place to achieve those goals.
- A great superintendent is flexible. He or she needs to be able to manage the politics of the job - to adapt to new board members, changes in state funding and changes in the school community while not sacrificing the district's vision. A great superintendent takes a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach.